The academic Israel boycotters are squaring up for another bout. I know I’m not the first person to have the thoughts below.
I’ve been feeling very potent lately. Impossibly potent. My feelings of self-efficacy are unfeasibly strong. I actually feel not only as if I’m responsible for everything, but can also be instrumental in fixing everything.
I can trace this back to several doses of Jewish conspiracy theory in the recent past, as I was reading around the boycott. The gist: “Jews (well, lets face it – Jewish men) have almost supernatural powers of gaining influence and controlling situations – see how over-represented they are in positions of power. They have inflitrated our scholarship, our health care, our political systems, our entertainment – they are dangerously powerful and they want us to be their puppets.”
Jews who reads enough of this poison would have to be very single-minded not to soak some of it up over time – just as any minority’s self-perception is affected by its image in the eyes of the majority. But these conspiracy theories are intended for non-Jews, not Jews, and for me as a Jew they have this interesting side effect of self-belief. After all, asserting that Jews are influential and fiendishly clever is not demeaning in the slightest – on the contrary.
One outcome is my heightened awareness of Jews in positions of power, and far from feeling worried (unless you count my ongoing disappointment that we are stuck with a meritocracy which rewards people in circumstances which permit them to learn, think and dream) I feel inspired.
Have Jews through time experienced this creeping sense of potential, which though – of course – completely circumstantial – is almost impossible to resist? Is this what made Einstein, Marx, Freud, Durkheim, Montefiori, all the others? For me, even while vigorously resisting it, the quality of this antisemitism has been particularly helpful – I’m not talking about cultural cohesion, which I distrust – but in terms of fulfilling my human potential.
But it’s crazy – how close is what I feel to Nationalism? Should I squash it? I don’t want to be a Nationalist.
As I said, I’m not the first to put forward these views. I’m going to look now for a brave book by – I think an American rabbi – on this paradox.